The kings of self definitely dance to their own tunes. Peshawar-based duo Sajid Ghafoor and Zeeshan Parwez’s latest offering “Sanity” not only has saccharine-soaked melodies, but also a phenomenally-executed video.
Musically, the track is crisply produced and radio-friendly. But that in itself is a feat considering the use of odd time signatures. The production is intelligent and engaging — subtle panning is used to emphasise the lyrical content while the soundscape is rich and layered. The duo has a knack of maintaining just the right mix of computer trickery and organic sounds in their songs. The music may be dense and thematic, but it is at no point self-indulgent.
Parwez says computers and synthesisers might be their primary weapons of choice, but they do want to experiment with ‘real’ sounds. “A lot of the samples you hear are recorded live or generated from analogue devices. Sajid writes most of the songs and his guitar is a major factor in the production.”
There is no arguing that Ghafoor can sing. His enunciation and nostalgia-driven lyrics pluck all the right strings. And for a language that is not his first, he seems to be doing it with considerable earnestness — something not a lot of people can boast.
“Mass appeal will be appreciated. But if we had tried doing this in Urdu it wouldn’t have been this good. We know the music we write is for a very niche audience, but that will just make us try harder to win over more people,” says Parwez.
So while it’s hard not to sound pretentious doing what they do, Sajid and Zeeshan are doing a pretty good job at keeping their sound original. The fact that they choose to consistently make and produce their own music videos shows they do not plan on conforming to trends. The duo is not trying to be pseudo elitist — it has a natural inclination towards unfamiliar ground. Though the idea of combining guitar and audio samples is by no means a first — the band seems to be consciously evading mass appeal.
Even though one half of the band is an acclaimed director, the decision to get someone else to do the music video of “Sanity” worked well for Sajid and Zeeshan. In fact, each consequent video seems to outdo the preceding one. The “King of Self” video gave way to “Free Style Dive” and “Walk on Air” — each one arguably upping the ante.
The video of “Sanity” is a typography project directed by Shahab Qamar, another talented individual hailing from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and based in Australia. The third self-dubbed typography project is a treat for the eyes — lyrics juxtaposed with beautifully toned footage gives the video a surreal feel. The idea of including lyrics in the video (like subtitles) should go down well with the local audience too: again, something that works for the band without them looking like they’re trying too hard.
Qamar is a genius of sorts when it comes to post-production. Fittingly too, considering he is making a video for Parwez — who was the first person to make music videos only through animation in Pakistan. Qamar, who is also a musician, makes the craft look easy with his aesthetics. The lyrics could have looked like subtitles on stimulants had he not been careful.
While explaining why he chose Qamar to do this video Parwez says that he wanted a fresh perspective. “It’s not important that I make all the videos as long as we have someone who can relate to the project and bring new ideas to the table. I’ve worked with Shahab in ‘Uth Records’ and I knew he is very good with graphics,” he says. The musician-cum-director adds, “The idea was simple: place text in different backgrounds. I wanted him to start from scratch and I’m very happy with the final product.”
What the future holds
It’s difficult to guess where Ghafoor and Parwez plan to take their musical amibitions. Parwez is hoping for more concerts and while that may be on every musician’s wishlist, he is not going to sit idle while waiting to go on stage. “More videos are on the cards. People from Peshawar, Islamabad and Karachi have approached us and want to make our videos. Since working with Shahab has been so rewarding, we’re looking forward to working with others from different backgrounds.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 15th, 2012.